Congressman James E. Clyburn is calling for gun restrictions in the wake of mass shootings in Texas and New York.

“You can’t look at all these things and not know that something has to be done,” Clyburn said during an interview with The T&D on Tuesday.

“It is not rational for an 18-year-old to not be able to buy a beer and not to be able to really operate as an adult in most things in our society and yet can purchase a weapon of war,” he said.

Referring to the Uvalde, Texas shooting that resulted in the death of 19 children and two adults, he said “These aren’t hunting guns: these are weapons of war and we allow an 18-year-old to purchase it? What is rational about that?”

Clyburn said there are about 39 pieces of gun legislation currently before Congress.

Clyburn said fixing the “Charleston loophole” is one classic example. The “loophole” allows the sale of a firearm to proceed if a background check is not completed within three days.

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The “loophole” allowed a gunman to obtain the weapon that was used to murder nine people and wound three others as they participated in a Bible study at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in June 2015.

Had the FBI background check been completed, the shooter would have been barred from purchasing a firearm.

“He had expressed himself how many times that he was all about starting a race war. The same thing up in Buffalo – trying to start a race war,” Clyburn said.

“We see these things and we hear these things and now we hear that this young man or young animal down in Texas shared what he was going to do with what seems to be a retired police officer,” Clyburn said. “What is rational about that? It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Clyburn, who grew up during the civil rights movement, said the country was torn but came together to solve the problems of segregation.

“If we did it before, we can do it again,” he said. “Wherever there is a will, there is a way. The reason we are not doing it is because the will has not been developed to do it.”

“How can you see little babies being slaughtered and not develop a will to get weapons of war out of the hands of people who should not have them?” Clyburn said.

He said someone should have been required to report the Uvalde shooter’s purchase of weapons, magazines and ammunition.

Clyburn noted that if he went to a bank and deposited $15,000, under federal law the bank would be required to report the transaction.

“There is no rationality here,” he said.

Clyburn says he questions the rationality of those who are protecting the National Rifle Association, which he described as “one of the most discredited institutions in our society.”

Clyburn says irrational thinking is “driving the politics of this country.”

“It is not just guns,” Clyburn said.

Early voting

Before his interview, Clyburn cast a ballot for the June Democratic primary election at the Orangeburg County Voter Registration Office.

Tuesday marked the first day of early voting in South Carolina.

“I think it is a good step,” Clyburn said, when asked about early voting.

“I think it is a little bit too compressed. Not allowing Saturdays and Sundays to me is not convenient enough,” he said.

Clyburn said in “most democracies, weekend voting is a time that people vote.”

“You’ve still got people having to sacrifice and make a choice between whether or not go to vote or go to work,” Clyburn said.

South Carolina’s legislature passed a law making early voting a reality beginning with the upcoming primary election.

In-person absentee voting has been replaced with a two-week early voting period. Any voter can visit an early-voting location in their county and vote like they would at their polling place on Election Day.

Early-voting for the June 14 primaries began Tuesday and will run through June 10, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Voters will not be able to vote on the weekend of June 4-5.

Individuals voting in person should bring a photo ID or a voter registration card if you do not have a photo ID.

The war in Ukraine

Clyburn also touched upon his support for Ukraine and its example of relinquishing nuclear arms in order to live in peace.

In 1994, Ukraine agreed to destroy the weapons and to join the T\treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

“I think the world community owes a great debt to Ukraine and the world community ought to pay that debt,” Clyburn said.

As to what the United States should do, Clyburn said he is not an “expert on war and I don’t venture into that.”

“I trust (Lloyd) Austin,” Clyburn said. “He is the secretary of defense. I suspect he is going about the right way to do it.”

Looking ahead

With less than six months until the general election, Clyburn said Congress needs to focus on “getting a handle on what people’s dreams and aspirations are” and to find out “what we can do to fulfill those dreams and aspirations.”

“You know people are experiencing trauma in their schools, neglect in their lives and what we need to do in Congress is respect that,” Clyburn said. “The people we represent have no control over inflation. We do. We can do things to lessen the impact of inflation.”

“These people have absolutely no control over the lack of infrastructure in their communities, but we do,” he said, adding that is why he has been pushing for rural broadband for years.

Following his interview with the T&D, Clyburn held a campaign lunch rally with supporters and volunteers at D&B Fish and Barbecue Restaurant on John C. Calhoun Drive.

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